The Use of Smoke Detectors in Health Care Occupancies

By Saf-T-Man · February 17, 2011 · Filed in Statement of Conditions

It never ceases to amaze me when performing a fire / life safety assessment in a hospital. Why? I see smoke detectors in locations that the CODE does not require them to be installed. Where are they being installed that does not require them? In patient rooms, corridors (see exceptions below), hazardous areas and many occupied spaces. Smoke detectors are actually required in very few locations, whether the building has a full capacity of sprinklers or not. These areas are as follows:

Any fire or smoke door that is held open with magnetic hold backs needs to have a smoke detector installed on one side only if the suspended ceilings on either side of the barrier is less than 24” from the top of the door to the ceiling. This includes hazardous areas that have 1-hour rated walls with ¾-hour C label door assemblies.

All existing elevators having a travel distance of 25 feet or more above or below the level that best serves the needs of the fire department requires installation of smoke detectors per ASME / ANSI A17.3. This includes elevator lobbies, enclosed landings and elevator machine rooms. All new elevators need to comply with ASME / ANSI A17.1

Review your HVAC systems as required by NFPA 90A, Installation of Air Conditioning and Ventilation Systems.

An FSES equivalency may require that you install smoke detectors.

Existing Health Care Occupancies that open to a corridor need to consider the following.

Waiting areas that do not have sprinklers. If the smoke compartment has sprinklers throughout with quick response sprinklers but there is no direct supervision from a nursing station or similar space.

Spaces other than patient sleeping rooms, treatment rooms and hazardous areas need to have detectors in the area open to the corridor AND in the corridor if the compartment does not have enough sprinklers.

Corridors onto which a space unlimited in size can be open with smoke detectors unless the smoke compartment has enough sprinklers throughout with quick response sprinklers. The open space needs detection unless there is direct supervision from a nursing station or similar space .

Nurse stations do not require smoke detection. This includes the clerical and charting areas as well as the nourishment station if there is direct supervision from the station.

New Health Care Occupancies that open to a corridor need to consider the following.

Waiting areas unless there is direct supervision from a nursing station or similar space.

Corridors onto which a space unlimited in size can be open with smoke detectors unless the smoke compartment has enough sprinklers throughout with quick response sprinklers.

When planning major renovations or new additions in your facility make sure you inform the design staff of these requirements. When they plan to install smoke detectors in all those areas where they are not required, you not only pay a hefty price for the initial installation but also the recurring annual fees for inspection and testing.

As always, perform your own due diligence in investigating your required codes and your local Authority Having Jurisdiction - above are the experiences of the author throughout a career of Life Safety Code Consulting.

Dedicated to helping your facility!